The global market is flooded with products of different brands with buyers having a plethora of options. To either go for the costly ones or settle for cheaper substitutes of the same product. Indeed, the market condition is such that every company or manufacturer out there is joining the race by bringing in products which are not only cheap variants of an existing product but also, provide guarantee that it is better than the branded product. Examples like mobile phones, headphones, even mosquito repellants… you will always find a product which turns out to be 10% to 60 % cheaper than a branded variant.
However, this is where the issue starts. This is where a prospective buyer in his advent to find a cheaper variant of a branded product end up getting duped or cheated. I will give you an example straight out of my own experience.
It was 2 years ago when my mom wanted to buy a new pressure cooker. Both of us were checking shopping sites on our mobile. It just happened that a group of salesmen were selling pressure cookers at a cheap price. My mom called out to them and checked the cookers they had. Maybe not a branded company but they looked good. They were priced very cheap, less than what amazon or flipkart was selling.
We did not think twice and purchased them. 3 days of usage and that is when we realized that we were cheated. Rice was half cooked and all air pressure was coming out from the sides instead of the cooker weight. There was no contact number to raise a complaint and no bill too for the same product. Yes, it was cheap but it was my hard-earned money that went down the drain.
This is how lessons are learnt. This how we grow wise and that is the main reason or objective of this article. How will you or how do you detect or avoid buying a fake product? We will look at certain points which are important to determine the fake from the real.
Ever came across a message or a notification from an unknown source stating that a branded watch is available at a discount of 60 %-80 %. There are even illegitimate websites which offer products which are priced lesser, like way lesser, than what the market price is and a lot of people have been cheated like this.
Be aware and stay away from such notifications. Understand that businesses pay a lot of money to sustain their brand value in the market. Be it an Apple product or a Microsoft Xbox, the pricing of these products itself shows their legitimacy in the market. Anything cheaper than that is either a fake or used product with history of repairs.
You can no doubt buy them at second hand prices but make sure to also have the product bills in case of any sudden issue. Also, if you are seriously looking to buy such products, the best thing would be wait for at least 6 months to one year for the prices to drop.
I did the same with my Xbox one. On launch, most electronic products are priced high targeting the main cream of the market. I purchased the Xbox one after 1.5 years post release and it was priced at 30 % less than the launch price. Moral of the story – Patience is the golden virtue (considering there is no cheaper variant of an Xbox).
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
These are the list of countries which are notorious for selling fake products ranked from highest source to lowest source (2013 data) – China, Hong Kong, Turkey, Singapore, Thailand, India, Morocco, UAE, Pakistan, Egypt. If there is any change in this data, you are free to mention the same in comments and we will have it updated.
With the recent ban on Chinese products in India, the government has made it mandatory for all shopping sites and companies to mention the country of origin or manufacture for all products sold. This is also a perfect indicator of a fake product.
We are in a time where most of our shopping is through mobile apps and that makes us more responsible towards what we are buying or selling. Make sure that you always check the country of origin before purchasing the product. Yes, I agree that not all products from China or Turkey may be fake but as a few wise men said, WHEN IN DOUBT, DO NOTHING.
Not long ago, an incident occurred where a lady ordered a designer saree from an unknown website. Money was paid through online mode and when the package was delivered, she found a brick inside it instead of a saree. Imagine her plight, how would you feel?
This is not just one example, there are many people who have suffered like this. Beware of scamsters, your precious time may be consumed checking and researching before buying a product but your money will be safe with you at least.
Online shopping sites like Amazon or Flipkart have a unique style of packaging. So does grocery sites like Fresh to Home, Big Basket and Grofers, there is a brand value in their packaging itself which a ‘hardcore’ consumer can easily make out. Well, agreed that not all of us are hardcore but that still doesn’t give us an excuse to not check the items we are ordering.
Nowadays, all shopping sites send us a confirmation email and message stating that we have ordered for something and it will be delivered within this date. If we don’t receive a confirmation, then something is wrong and that is where our duty as a responsible consumer begins. Call customer service and tell them that you did not get the confirmation.
For someone who frequently buys stuffs from Amazon, I get message after message regarding where the product is travelling from, where it is currently and when out for delivery, I get a message of who is delivering the product and his mobile number. One can only marvel at their system of delivery and that is why Amazon is on top.
Not all shopping sites have this kind of complex network and that is one reason why when a person comes for delivery, it becomes important to have him open the package and show if it is one you ordered. Also, if you are ordering from an unknown website, make sure you check all ratings and reviews of it on search engines before taking the plunge. Do Cash on Delivery (CoD) mode for safety reasons (Disclaimer – Due to covid-19, CoD is not accepted for most shopping sites. Advised to avoid unknown websites during this situation).
Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, Prestige, Bajaj, HP, LG, BMW, Audi… the list is endless. Yes, these are brands. The world knows them. A consumer can literally look at a logo and recognize the product. That is the power of a brand name, it not only represents a person or a company… it represents the company’s tradition, it represents the people who work day in and day out creating the products that makes our lives simple and it represents the quality of their products and service.
Do we think twice before buying a branded product? No, we don’t. We never question about that product or its quality. Bikaner or Aggarwal Sweets, for example. We have probably tried every sweet or food corner and no doubt, some of them are good but people still talk about the above shops. They have high ratings and reviews everywhere and indeed, so many years into their business, they have maintained their name. This is another example of a Brand.
Let’s say that you purchased a Samsung Mobile. You used it for 3 days and you found out that there are defects in it. It is running slow; you are facing storage or memory issues. What do you do? You do not waste time; you rush immediately to the shop you purchased from or a service center. Trust me, you will get the same quality of service that you expect in a product. If a product does not work, their name comes into question. Call it fear or a matter of respect, you can see that in their way of work as they do whatever it takes to resolve their issue.
No, I am not asking you to not question their quality. Instead, I am asking you to think. Why would someone contact you or message you about buying a HP laptop at 50 % – 60 % lesser than the market price? You feel that you cannot afford that product and therefore, end up in this shady deal. Think hard people, a brand has a target to sell these many units and they do whatever it takes to sell that much. They provide EMI facility for middle income consumers to buy that product.
There are a lot of products out there and many a times, the product features are either same or better than the other. Do your research, compare prices, if it feasible then take a loan or save up money but please, do not fall for shady or fake product campaigns.
Nowadays, all shops or business centers have the option of online pay through apps like Paytm, Google pay, PhonePe, etc. During the period of demonetization, the Government of India created multiple campaigns encouraging people to utilize the power of digital money.
Banks and Financial Institutions have brought out features which allow you to share your account details to the concerned party. Indeed, if you check such messages, it only has details that are required to add to the payee list when you login to your savings account on the banking website to avoid security breaches. Even then, there are people out there who are able to find loopholes in this system in order to cheat people.
I have been using digital payment methods since 2009 (back when online shopping sites were gathering momentum and offering features to pay through debit or credit card) and I am perhaps one of the few people in our country that has embraced that feature because of how efficient, convenient and time-saving it is. That being said, when dealing with payment methods of websites or apps, it is very important to understand a few basic things to avoid hassles.
Ever come across certain websites where you are making a payment through debit or credit card and suddenly, there is lag and we get an error – PAGE CANNOT BE DISPLAYED. Either the website has not programmed their payment page properly or it is a fake website. However, I have experienced similar trouble on known websites too. Try 1-2 times and keep a tab on your messages to see if the money has gone through. If not, there is a problem and I advise you to stop then and there. If it is important, try later and if still doesn’t work, contact customer service.
There have been many instances where a person was asked to make the payment immediately on a particular mobile number through gpay or paytm. The payment was made but while delivering the goods, the person stated that he has not received any payment. The customer received notification that the payment went through but now, the person who was supposed to deliver the product is not answering the phone. This is how people are cheated and it is our responsibility to be very careful.
This is what I always do. When I go to a shop and I am paying though paytm, once I scan the barcode, the name of the shop or the shopkeeper flashes up. Before making the payment, show the name to the shopkeeper. Only when he confirms should you make the payment. I was supposed to make a payment to a person on Gpay. When I inserted the person’s mobile number, the name was totally different from the person I was dealing with. I messaged that person and asked about the same. She confirmed it and I made the payment. I have proof on gpay and I have the message that she confirmed it. Any issues, I have all proof of the transaction.
There are also instances of people not accepting digital money and forcefully encouraging to pay cash. We cannot read minds but no one has right to force us to do something which we are not comfortable with. You want to go ahead with cash transactions, no issues with that. However, if you insist on digital transactions and the person still refuses, walk away from there.
Ratings and reviews are an in-thing now. It is a way for a customer to readily decide whether to watch that movie, dine at that restaurant and buy the desired product from that shop. It is said by a lot of experts that any rating above 3.5 is a good rating. Therefore, when ordering any product, keep that rating in mind.
A seller is rated according to the quality of products he keeps, his aftersales service and swift delivery of products. If anyone of these aspects is not up to the mark, then the seller rating goes down. Online shopping sites show millions of products and many a time, the same product is sold by multiple shops. Confused? You don’t have to be. Check the seller rating and that will give a clear indicator.
If you do face a situation where a seller rated high has given you a defective product, ask for a replacement. If they deny, raise a complaint. Complaints made directly affect the rating of a seller and it their responsibility to maintain that rating by providing quality products and service.
This is really easy to find or decipher if you have the ‘eyes’ for it. Social media is filled with photos or memes of interesting items found both in offline and online shops that are available at extravagant prices followed by witty reviews that can make even the Gods and Demons laugh out loud till it hurts.
However, there is a serious side to it too and this is another reason why we as customers need to be careful. Take any product on a shopping site, for example: – Books or E-books. On Amazon, there is a feature call the bestseller rating which is calculated according to the no. of sales in comparison to other products sold in that category.
If you look closely, there are a lot of reviews for that book. Some are good and some are bad. The rating of that book is either really good or average. It looks like the book has sold a lot of copies but in reality, the best seller rating is giving a different picture. Let us say the best seller rating is 9500, it means the product may have sold around 50-100 copies (depends considering Amazon does not reveal much about that). Now, look at the number of reviews. It is in the range of 250-300 which is incorrect.
This is a prime example of fake reviews. Reviews are equal to customer feedback. It is an indicator of whether the customer was satisfied or not satisfied with a product. A customer need not write a review but clicking on the no. of stars is enough. The rating system is mostly between 1 star to 5 star. It is easy to understand which product to choose based on the rating system.
However, people use illegitimate methods to boost the review or rating system because of which you see a product with high ratings and good reviews but when you check the bestseller rating, it is lower than the actual ratings itself. There are a no. of illegitimate sites which help in boosting the review system but they utilize fake bots to do the same. That system is temporary and after a few days or months, if you check the same product, it will show the actual data.
As a customer, it is a responsibility to have knowledge of such things in order to avoid falling into a trap or being cheated.
FAKE CALLS OR EMAILS
Ever received a call from an unknown number stating that they provide financial services at low interest rates and they would like your personal details for further proceedings. You may have also received emails from an individual on behalf of a known banking organization for the same reason.
No organization sends emails or calls a person to ask for their personal information. For example, banks or financial services who call customers regarding loans or credit cards only ask whether we require them. It is only when we agree, do they provide information as to what documents we need to provide and that they will send a person to collect them.
If you come across a situation where the person is asking for your personal details on call, immediately disconnect it. Personal details should never be communicated to anyone on the phone. If the person asks to send the documents by email, then the email id should be a company id. If you see that the email id is a personal id like gmail or yahoomail, then stop right there.
I have taken both a loan and a credit card, and I provided the documents through email id which was a company id. I got them without any hassles. Be careful while taking note of the same to avoid any errors. I advise to have the representative message the email id to your registered number.
Have Truecaller installed on your mobile. The app is really good and helps in determining which number is legitimate and which number is fake. As for emails, make sure the email id is a company id. If it is an unknown company, check google if the company exists or not.
Furthermore, financial services like Bajaj Finance actually provide a link that redirects to the company website where you can provide all details for faster loan proceedings. The link provided should mandatorily take you to a company website. If not, it will either take you to an illegitimate site or it will be broken.
FAKE PROMOTIONS OR CAMPAIGNS
You received an email that states that you can get the latest Apple I-phone for just Rs. 99 by clicking a link. Sounds like an irresistible offer, isn’t it? You click the link and it redirects you to a site that gives a step-by-step procedure to get the I-phone for the said price.
This is how it goes – you need to register to a website that offers a product to purchase (a vacation package or an electronic item), it then asks you to pay for the product which in my experience was somewhere around Rs. 3000 to 25000 (I have received 100s of these emails. They are interesting but no way I am falling for it). It is only when you pay that amount will you then be re-directed to the site that will allow you to buy the I-phone for Rs. 99.
Honestly, I don’t know whether you will get it or not because I never tried it. That being said, I advise you to hold your horses and not fall for this scam. As I said earlier, no branded company will sell their products at a lesser price unless it is a promotional event that they are organizing.
These are shady methods by crooks or cheaters to earn some easy money and we as consumers should never encourage such evil.
Change is nature and as the world changes in terms of advances in business, technology, education and the likes, new evil crops up acting like crabs that always try to bring the good ones down. As consumers, we are also a part of that change and therefore, it is our responsibility to assist in that advancement by being knowledgeable and being verbal about the criminal activities affecting the goodwill of all business – be it small or big.